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Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2008-0014-3151, evaluation of carbon monoxide exposures during rescue operations using personal watercraft - Florida.

McCleery RE; Garcia A
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 2008-0014-3151, 2012 Jan; :1-32
NIOSH received an employer request for an HHE at a county fire rescue department in Florida. The employer submitted the request because of interest in evaluating CO exposures during rescue operations using PWC. This interest was generated by a NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program report published in December 2007 that described how CO poisoning may have contributed to the death of a fire fighter participating in a surf rescue training session. That report recommended that fire departments with PWC rescue units evaluate CO exposures during simulated PWC rescue operations. In response to this request, NIOSH investigators evaluated CO exposures in August 2009. We measured real-time CO air concentrations using up to three different methods on an older unmaintained PWC and a new PWC. We evaluated eight different trials (out of the water, stationary in the water, no wake speed [2.3 mph], non-planing speed [10.15 mph], planing speed [approximately 40 mph], no wake speed while a fire fighter held on to a tow strap, and mock rescues in calm water and slightly choppy water). Different versions of some trials were conducted with a fire fighter on the PWC as a "rescuer" or on the rescue board as a "victim." Our results show that PWC can create hazardous levels of CO, especially while remaining stationary, operating at slower speeds, and operating under an increased load (with a rescuer on the PWC and a victim on a rescue board). The highest CO concentrations measured during these trials (> 1,000 ppm) tended to be near the back of the PWC. Higher PWC speeds greatly reduce the amount of CO around the PWC. However, when the PWC slows down from higher speeds, the exhaust continues to move over the top of the PWC resulting in elevated CO concentrations at the back of the PWC. For both PWC tested, the use of a rescue board seemed to redirect the exhaust away from the back of PWC and the victim lying on the board. The new PWC produced lower CO concentrations than the older PWC. This is likely because of regular maintenance and stricter emission standards. We recommend that fire departments and other agencies with surf rescue responsibilities review the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation report (F2006-14) for recommendations to prevent fatalities related to rescues using PWC. Recommendations relating to CO include using a rescue board during emergency responses and training, minimizing PWC idling or operating at slow speeds for extended periods, maintaining PWC according to the manufacturer's directions, and replacing older PWC with newer PWC that have emission controls.
Region-4; Health-hazards; Oxides; Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting; Fire-hazards; Emergency-responders; Emergency-response; Rescue-measures; Rescue-workers; Poison-gases; Poisons; Poison-control; Exposure-assessment; Toxic-gases; Motor-vehicles; Transport-mechanisms; Exhaust-gases; Exhaust-systems; Exhaust-ventilation; Training; Emission-sources; Marine-workers; Author Keywords: Fire Protection; fire; rescue; marine; personal watercraft; PWC; carbon monoxide; CO
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
HETA-2008-0014-3151; B02172012
NIOSH Division
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: March 25, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division